- 02 Sep 17
Stuart Clark reflects on day one of the Stradbally action...
As Hozier knows, it sometimes takes only one insanely catchy tune and an eye popping video to conquer the world. I've no idea what they've got in store for us visually in October, but Little Hours' emotional rollercoaster ride of a new single, 'Later On', could be the one that leads to Ryan McCloskey and John Doherty getting their platinum Am-Ex cards.
Elsewhere, its equally impassioned predecessor, 'How Could I Love You?', and the shimmering 'Water' also catch the early evening Main Stage ear. It's all very Sheeranesque, but let's face it, that hasn't done their rivals in the plaintive Irish pop stakes, Picture This, any harm.
Hot Press' first act of EP 2017 was to welcome Neil Hannon in his 1970s Geography teacher attire to the Chatroom where adoring fans hung on to his every witty word. He hasn't exactly been on his uppers these past ten years, but with Foreverland giving Neil his biggest ever UK hit, there's a renewed spring in his step when the Derry troubadour, now changed into a very fetching Napoleon outfit, gets his allotted hour on the Main Stage. The set pretty much chooses itself, with 'Generation Sex', 'Something For The Weekend', 'English Lady Of A Certain Age, 'National Express' and the rest of his very great hits sitting comfortably alongside such Foreverland standouts as 'To The Rescue' and 'Catherine The Great', which turns the whimsy levels up to 11. Segueing 'At The Indie Disco' into 'Blue Monday' - hats off to Simon Little for almost out-Hookying Hooky with that bassline - an act of crowd pleasing genius, as is having 'My Lovely Horse' as the penultimate song. Leaving the stage after a gorgeous rendition of Promenade's 'Tonight We Fly', the grin on Hannon's face is almost as shit eating as in June when he met his idol of idols, Jeff Lynne, in Sheffield. You'll be able to hear that particular story when his Chatroom interviews goes live soon on hotpress.com!
Judging by the look of sheer amazement on Alfie's face - he's the one with the James Dean quiff and chiseled jaw - Hudson Taylor didn't realise just how big they've become in Ireland. Human pyramids are formed and choruses joyously bellowed back by the massive Main Stage crowd as they throw 'Chasing Rubies' and 'World Without You' out into the early evening sun.
Whilst it's all bit too Mumford-y for me, 'Feel It Again', a newbie about drinking with the devil, suggests there might be something darker and deeper on the horizon.
Next we're treated to a double whammy of new talent in the always worth a visit Word stage. Bringing the funky noise and some righteous rap indignation are Real Kid, a four-piece who met in Mosney whilst under direct provision. After so much high gloss pop, it's a relief to hear an outfit who make a virtue of their rough edges. We shall be investigating further. Young Mullingar plaid-shirt wearers Reprisal are obviously much enamoured of Neil Young's '90s adventures with Pearl Jam. If they can make their choruses as killer as their fuzzboxed riffs things could get interesting.
His new Big Fish Theory album is an avant hip hop masterpiece, but live Vince Staples is a huge disappointment. With no musicians or DJs to keep him company in the Electric Arena, the Californian cuts a solitary figure as he battles with a muddy mix and overblown backing tracks. A few orange spotlights and the odd puff of dry ice aside, there's no attempt to paper over the obvious cracks with visuals. I expect he'll have better nights here.
No such charges can be levelled at Young Fathers, the scabrous Edinburgh trio who Irvine Welsh insisted be on the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack. I'm not for one second suggesting that they've partaken in the same antisocial behaviour as Begbie and the boys, but there's something genuinely menacing and disturbing about their dark funk contributions to that film, 'No Way' and 'Dare Me' . Bouncing around for the entirety of their thrill a second set, they should give Mr Staples grinds in how to work a stage.
Sadly, I don't hold any sway with the Broccoli family or the Fleming estate, but if I did I'd be telling them to get Hannah Reid to sing the next James Bond song. Equal parts Florence foghorn and Beth Gibbons sultriness, the London Grammar siren swoops, soars and does lots of other things beginning with 's' during 'Strong' and 'Rooting For You', but this is 3am with the headphones clamped on music rather than Friday festival fare. Incidentally, I hope someone posts the bit where she cracks up at a male fan's 'interpretive dancing' on to YouTube.
Whilst I'm still in curmudgeon mode, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra getting their classic '70s disco on with Jenny Greene was fun at first, but now feels forced. Few in Rankin's Wood would agree, though, as serious Saturday Night Fever shapes are thrown.
The moves are more shuffly but just as enthusiastic as The xx run through their repertoire of alt. floorfillers with customary glacial cool. It's taken a while, but what you get on record is now exactly what you get on stage - which is a good/bad thing depending on taste. The vocal interplay between Oliver and Romy is particularly delicious on 'I Dare You' and 'VCR', which might just be the day's most most enthusiastically received song.
Heading down to Stradbally, I'd received this text about HMLTD from my journalistic pal in London, Niall Swan: "Have seen them four times this year and swear I lost a stone weight overall. Nothing like them live."
With Mr. S not much given to hyperbole, I decide to eschew a fully live Bicep - I'm told they were stupendous in Electric Arena - in favour of catching the much-hyped Londoners popping their Irish cherry in Body & Soul. Imagine a three way alley fight between Sigue Sigue Sputnik, The Cramps and a Young Americans-era David Bowie, and you'll have some idea of the aural and visual thrills dished up by these psychobilly glamsters. Nowhere is the sonic chicanery more striking than on 'To The Door', which rips the Rawhide theme off in supremely camp fashion. In years to come, the 300 or so of us present will remember this moment.
Day One of the Picnic has been a cracker!